1. The United Kingdom is one of the very few democratic
countries in the world without a codified constitution. Professor
Robert Blackburn and Dr Andrew Blick of the Centre for Political
and Constitutional Studies at King's College London state: "A
distinction is drawn between a constitution as the rules determining
political conduct, which the UK like any other country has, and
a codified constitution, that is a single document or collection
of documents within which they are contained, which the UK lacks."
Among other democracies, only Israel and New Zealand do not have
2. The Cabinet Manualthe guide published
in 2011 which sets out the procedures under which the Government
operatesdescribes the United Kingdom's constitutional arrangements
as follows: "The UK does not have a codified constitution.
There is no single document that describes, establishes or regulates
the structures of the state and the way in which these relate
to the people. Instead, the constitutional order has evolved over
time and continues to do so. It consists of various institutions,
statutes, judicial decisions, principles and practices that are
commonly understood as 'constitutional."
3. The United Kingdom has a rich constitutional heritage.
As the 800th anniversary of the agreement of Magna
Carta approaches, and people celebrate a significant moment in
a long constitutional history, it is also an exciting time to
look forward and to discuss the United Kingdom's constitutional
future. Magna Carta is widely acknowledged as the foundation of
the concept of limited government, subject both to the law and
to the people. Eight hundred years later, this concept is still
a cornerstone of the United Kingdom's constitution.
4. We are living through a period of considerable
democratic and political change. During the last two decades,
under Governments of different political complexions, significant
developments have taken place, including devolution in Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland, the removal of most hereditary peers
from the House of Lords, freedom of information legislation, the
establishment of the Supreme Court, the introduction of fixed-term
Parliaments, and the domestic legal entrenchment of human rights.
Also, the United Kingdom has experienced its first coalition Government
in recent times, and the traditional two-party system has a less
5. At the same time, some existing democratic arrangements
have been written down in publicly available documents such as
the Ministerial Code, the Civil Service Code, and
the Cabinet Manual, and the Acts creating the devolved
arrangements in most countries of the Union.
6. These changes, and attempts to write down existing
arrangements, have, however, been piecemeal. At the beginning
of the 2010 Parliament, we felt that the time was right to engage
the public on the back of a comprehensive evaluation of the United
Kingdom's democratic arrangements.
1 Professor Robert Blackburn and Dr Andrew Blick, Centre
for Political and Constitutional Studies, King's College London,
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